Archive for November, 2013

A Family Journey to Tacloban and Leyte

by on Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

My relatives in front of my auntie’s house (Maria)

The circumstances are of course extreme, but this story is a true measure of how extended families work in the Philippines, where a “cousin” is a first, second or third cousin. Maria and her husband have been flooded out of their own home several times. A few months ago the local government relocated them from the neighborhood of “informal settlers” (the politically correct term for squatters) where they had been living many years to a mass government housing project in Bulacan, a three-hour ride from Metro Manila.

In 2009 when my housemate and I were flooded out of our home during Ondoy (aka Ketsana), Maria and her husband worked tirelessly for five weeks cleaning up and moving us to another house—and that was only a matter of flood mud, not high winds. In 2011, when Typhoon Sendong (aka Washi) hit Cagayan De Oro, like other former flood victims, Maria and I knew what this meant. We went to the supermarket to buy boxes of relief goods—about enough to fill up the trunk of a taxi—and combed the house for other donations.

Yolanda hit on Friday, November 8th. Maria left Manila the following Monday and returned on the 17th. This interview took place on the 19th.

Maria’s story

The town of Tanauan is on the coast, about 18-20 kilometers south of Tacloban City. Catbalogan, Samar is the provincial capitol on the west coast about 102 kilometers from Tacloban.

When we first heard about Yolanda [Haiyan], my relatives here in Manila and I were really worried. We have family in the areas where the storm was the worst. I had an aunt and a sister in Tanauan, and my sister-in-law and nephews were in Tacloban. My brother was especially worried about his kids, a five-year-old and a three-month-old. His wife is about twenty-five. She’s a policewoman in Tacloban. They’re living apart because he has a job here in Manila, and he’d been unable to get in touch with her. From the news he said our town of Tanauan was all washed out. You couldn’t fly down because of the damage to the Tacloban airport. You could only go by bus. All communication was cut. In order to find out about your relatives you had to go to a government agency, stand in a long line and then ask about missing persons.

I decided to go down to help. At first there were four of us going, but my cousin’s high blood pressure flared up, so we used her ticket to pay for  the freight we were bringing with us. A ticket was 1,200 pesos [$27.50] and our baggage was 1,100 pesos. Then there were three of us, my brother, my niece—who had come along to see her parents—and me.

At the supermarket in Manila, I bought canned sardines, local canned meat like Vienna sausages, instant noodles, instant coffee, crackers, soap, menstrual pads and toothpaste in little sachets. I forgot toothbrushes. I bought a box with 24 one-liter bottles of water. My cousin brought four five-gallon containers of water. I got rice in Pasay near the bus terminal. We had no trouble getting all the stuff on the bus because my brother arrived very early and repacked everything. The company couldn’t really complain since we paid for the freight. At the bus stopovers we prepared the instant noodles with boiled water sold from thermoses.

The bus was crowded with people going down to see their relatives. People were frightened because of the news coverage, but we didn’t know how much was true and how much was exaggerated. In Catbalogan, West Samar, about a hundred kilometers from Tacloban, I bought rice because you couldn’t buy it in Tanauan. East Samar was destroyed, but the West was okay.

Welcome to Tacloban (Maria)

Tacloban was devastating. It had been flattened. When we opened the windows, we smelled the dead—it was a different kind of smell. I got nauseated. On the streets there were bodies in body bags and others that were not covered. I think they didn’t have enough bags to cover all of them. Some people had already been buried in a mass grave. There were dead bodies under big trees, including bodies of small children. I took pictures, but not of the dead. My cousin had told me to show my respect for the dead by not taking pictures of them. Just pray for them.

I saw the children, and I worried about my brother’s kids. I asked him where in Tacloban my sister-in-law lived because I knew the area near San Jose Airport was already washed out. He said his family was near Robinson’s Mall, far from the bus terminal.

In Tacloban we made a detour via the San Juanico Bridge to avoid the downtown area where there was a lot of looting. But I saw people ransacking a warehouse for frozen hot dogs and other meat. Then later, maybe a mile away, I saw a big area where the owner of a junk foods store had opened it up so people could come in and take food. One of the guys tossed a bag of chips to our bus driver. Later I heard that the supermarket at Robinson’s had opened so people could get food. But looters went up to the second floor and took television sets and i-phones. My sister-in-law’s niece said they went to the supermarket to get some milk for my nephew, and the shelves were empty. There were lots of people in the store but nothing to buy. Looted goods were being sold on the street for less than the regular price.

We had tickets for Tanauan, Leyte, which is near Tacloban City, but the driver said, “We’ll have to drop you at Tacloban City. There’s a bridge that’s been damaged.” We found out later that the bridge wasn’t damaged. He just wanted to go to Ormoc to see his own relatives.

We got into a big argument. I said, “But we’re going to Tanauan, and we have all this freight that we paid for. We don’t want to go to Tacloban because there are lots of looters and maybe they will grab our things.”

“No, our terminal is secure.”

Actually, it wasn’t. But by that time the military had arrived in Tacloban, so there was no problem about our stuff. We transferred to another bus, and the whole time we were on the bus we were really safe. There were people on the side of the road trying to stop the bus because there was no transportation, no jeepneys. So they were all on foot. But the driver kept driving in order to insure the safety of the passengers and their belongings.

The bridge to our town hadn’t been damaged, but there was so much debris covering it that it was impassable, so we went on a long detour. At first we didn’t recognize my auntie’s house because so many buildings had been flattened, but a lot of my relatives were there already.

When I told the bus driver to stop, he said, “We can’t stop here because of all these people. They’ll grab your stuff.”

“Don’t worry, they’re my relatives and neighbors and friends.”

Inside my auntie’s house (Maria)

When we got off the bus, we saw my auntie and male cousins waiting for us because they’d heard we were coming. We have a cousin in Ormoc we had been able to communicate with, and there was a cousin who’d gone down a day earlier.

The town was also crowded because people had come to look at the damage. It was very flat. We’d left Metro Manila on Monday at noon, and we arrived in Tanauan on Tuesday afternoon about four o’clock. I said, “Help me pack up all these things. Make a list of our relatives and other people who are really in need.”

So we had 22 packages—each with canned goods, noodles, bread, crackers, rice, soap and toothpaste—to distribute to relatives and also friends and neighbors with small children. We had some relatives in the nearby provinces, but we couldn’t get there because there was no transportation. So I just put stuff in my auntie’s house, and I said if they came she should give it to them.

Otherwise, people had nothing at all and no fuel. The firewood was wet. The gas canisters were either rusty or maybe washed away. So there was no way to cook, but we’d brought sliced bread, pan de sal [rolls] and crackers.

We distributed the goods that night, but we afraid because there are lots of people hanging around the house. There wasn’t enough for everyone in the neighborhood. We had no fights. A cousin told me that a mayor in our province was giving out provisions. There was a long line, and a guy got stabbed for cutting in line. On other streets in our town there was a lot of fighting over food. People were just so desperate.

That night it rained. My auntie and I sat up and talked all night, crouched together because there were holes in the roof. My back hurt from sitting on the bus for over twenty-four hours. I didn’t get any sleep, just drank water and ate some noodles—after we got the water boiled with a little pile of dry firewood my cousin’s wife had collected. I wanted to get back to Manila, but my brother asked me to go with him to Tacloban and see that his kids were safe. My auntie didn’t want to come to Manila or to Cebu, where there are also relatives, because she was worried about fixing up her house. How could she do that? There were no nails and no wood that wasn’t damaged. We need government help to build houses, like maybe the ones we have in Bulacan [concrete slab row houses which are rent-to-own]. Probably they’ll build the government agencies first, like municipal buildings or the Department of Budget and Management. And schools. They’ve already put up some tents for the people.

The next morning when we were leaving Tanauan, my auntie was fixing the deep well, and my sister was cleaning the pump. The water was okay, but you had to boil it before you drank it because of the bacteria.

On the way to Tacloban

My brother had come with my niece and me down to Tanauan, but he hadn’t been able to sleep because of worrying about his kids. There was no transportation from Tanauan to Tacloban, at least 18 kilometers. At 6:30 on Wednesday morning, my brother and sister and I and one of my nieces set out for Tacloban. It was really hot, and sometimes we stopped because our feet hurt. I wasn’t wearing running shoes, just flats. I was glad my flip-flops had broken so I wasn’t wearing those. There were lots of people on the road to see their relatives in Tacloban. My brother had some water and some crackers in a small backpack. He was worried his kids would have nothing to eat, but he didn’t want to take much because someone might take it away from him. We’d brought other stuff for his kids, but we left it in Tanauan at my auntie’s house so they could get it later. I brought a small bottle of water, which wasn’t really enough. Near Tacloban I drank some water from a hose, and that might be why I got diarrhea later. Maybe the water was contaminated by all of the bodies. On the way we walked through areas that had been flooded, so we were walking through mud.

On the way to Tacloban

Near Tacloban I saw lots of people lining up to get food. It wasn’t being distributed by a government agency. I think the owner of a rice-polishing plant was handing out rice. I asked my brother if he wanted to get in line, but the line was so long it reached almost all the way back to Tanauan. So we thought we’d just leave it for the people who were waiting.

We had to check on his family. I was just praying that no one was hurt. When a stranger opened the door of the house, I asked, “Does this house belonging to the auntie of Antony’s wife? It was a two-story house with an attic, a good distance from the shore and right on the road. So other people had come there. The auntie said that as the water was rising they went upstairs. It was over five feet when they heard someone knocking and a voice: “Is anyone home? Can we come up?” Maybe ten families had come in.

My nephew, the five-year-old, said, “Auntie, I heard the glass go brooOM-brooOM, like that. And I heard the wind go ZZZZZZZ, like that.”

I thought maybe he was traumatized.

“He said, “So we went up there, and we just went to sleep.”

So I thought, Okay, they’re fine. We walked back to Tanauan.

There was no transportation because there were no gasoline stations. If you wanted to go somewhere you had to walk. My cousins have a motorcycle, but they didn’t have gas. There were times when we were going through Samar when I saw very long lines but no gasoline. I just heard on the news that they are putting in two gas stations and filling them with gas. The agencies are starting to clean up Tacloban. Maybe it has priority because it’s a city, but how about the other towns? I have some cousins who are government employees. How can they work? They don’t have an office. There’s no electricity. There’s no communication.

Even if you have money, there are no stores and nothing to buy. It’s a very big problem. People will starve. Relief was arriving, but it’s not nearly enough. On Thursday, so almost a week after the typhoon, I heard the first government relief goods had arrived. That was when my auntie was on the news being interviewed by a big network here in Manila, ABC 5, Aksyon Balita. Tanauan was almost a ghost town. Relatives from Manila were coming to Leyte and bringing them back to Manila.

I’m grateful for all the international help. In Tanauan there were lots of Americans, a medical mission treating the wounded and others that need medical attention. I think they said they’d be going to Manila for supplies, but they’d be back. I saw some other white guys, but I didn’t know their nationality or whether they were just permanent residents married to Filipinas.

Thursday I tried to get back to Manila. I had a niece, a nephew and a cousin coming with me. The bus came from southern Leyte, and you just had to stand on the highway and wave and yell “para, para, para” [stop]. Going south to Tacloban they weren’t stopping. But going north they would stop, not in Tacloban but in other towns. There were four people on the bus who didn’t have money for transportation, just a handwritten letter from the vice mayor, which they wanted to use in lieu of tickets. But the bus company was a private company, so wouldn’t accept it. They told the people they had to go back to the bus terminal in their province to negotiate with the company about free transportation. The woman cried and begged the conductor to accept the 2,000 pesos their neighbors had collected for them. The conductor said okay, the adults could pay 700 each—the regular fare was 900 pesos—and the teenager could ride for free. I overheard them worrying about what they would eat, and when they didn’t get off the bus at the stopover, I brought food back to them. A woman sitting next to me was muttering that the people were just lying about not having money for food. I said I didn’t care, I was giving them food anyway.

At the bus and ferry terminal in Bicol lot of people were stranded because relief goods had priority on the ferry to Samar. We arrived early Friday, but we had to wait in the terminal until Saturday. Now a small bottle of water cost 25 pesos [instead of 11 pesos]. A cup of instant noodles, which would cost 12 pesos here, was 40 pesos. So it’s very expensive. But I didn’t really want to eat because my stomach hurt with the diarrhea. And then at the stopover you had to pay 5 or 10 pesos to use the CR [comfort room or restroom].

There’s also a government C-130 airplane flying back here. It will take people for free, but the first priority is for families with small kids, the old or the sick. The flight is only 45 minutes. You can’t fly down because they’re only taking relief goods.

My cousins went to stay with other relatives. They’re helping where they can. We have other cousins who are going to the provinces. I’ll send things down with them—mosquito repellant, candles, salt, toothbrushes, matches. Because we’d forgotten matches. My sister-in-law is going to be coming up from Tacloban for three days or a week. She couldn’t come up now because the police department is on red alert. PNoy [President Aquino] is in Tacloban meeting with local officials, so she has to stay there to protect the president until he leaves.

I haven’t talked with my brother since I got back because there’s no cell signal yet. This week he’ll be bringing their two kids here, as well as a niece to help him with the kids. I said, “If I have time, I will look after your children, but I am working also. In Bulacan it would be hard for them because we don’t have running water. We fetch water in containers after it’s delivered, and we only have electricity in the evening [no electric fans during the day, no refrigerator]. But at least it’s cooler this time of year. It’s up to you.” I was also worried because of the dog [who barks and growls around everyone except his owners.]

They’ll just come to visit. We have a cousin here in Manila, in Taguig, who has a big house, so some relatives are already staying there.

A reader writes:

I thought Maria’s post was compelling.  The story sucked me in and moved me deeply.  I was particularly affected by the suffering of the people, their desperation and Maria’s  compassion.  Please tell her I find that she has a lot of courage and a great spirit of kindness too.

 

Stories of Korea and Koreans, Well Told

by on Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

1. “A Temporary Marriage.” A woman comes to the US to search for her “kidnapped” daughter.
2. “At the Edge of the World.” A shaman moves in next door to church-going North Korean refugees.
3. “The Pastor’s Son.” After failure in the US a father and son return to Korea and the father remarries.
4. “The Goose Father.” After his family goes abroad, a man discovers love and his sexuality.
5. ”The Salaryman.” In the economic crisis, a company employee loses his job and family and becomes homeless.
6. “Drifting House.” North Korean children trying to get out of the country after mother has abandoned them.
7. “A Small Sorrow.” A woman comes to terms with her compromised marriage.
8. “The Believer.” Young seminarian finds the remains of a neighborhood boy in the garbage.
9. “Beautiful Women.” A mother and daughter live a marginalized existence near a US military base.

The storytelling of Drifting House is brilliant, the characters and their situations dark and haunting. Together the stories also present a view of Korea which could serve as either an introduction to readers who know the country very little or as confirmation to those who know it well. Krys and I talked over Skype recently when she was in Seoul and I was in Manila.

Krys Lee’s story

Krys Lee, photo by Matt Douma

I’ve read quite a few Asian-American writers who deal with the immigration and feeling disconnected both with the new culture and with the culture of their parents. Sometimes when writing about the old country these writers make rather telling mistakes or say they’re afraid of making them. After living in the US and the UK you’ve chosen to move back to Korea and obviously know it well. Could I call you a Korean-American Korean writer?

I’m not quite Korean-American at this point in terms of what I’m writing about or what I feel close to, but somewhere in-between. So Korean-American Korean sounds good. I’ll take it. I originally was going to stay in Korea for six months, and it’s been over a decade now. Seoul is pretty much home at this point.

I think factual accuracy is not as important as emotional accuracy, our sense of intimacy with the place and people. The dictum to “write what you know” doesn’t mean writing directly from autobiography, but you can’t write with conviction about a world and a people that you don’t feel intimately in your bones. That’s often the problem with writers who are trying to write outside of themselves. It may be important to them, but it’s not intimate somehow. For my first novel I tried to write about the LA riots, but I gave up after doing enormous amounts of research. I realized that at seventeen or eighteen I felt close to that West-coast community, whereas the person I am now feels much more intimate with the world in the East. So I write what feels closest to me. Writers should write about what they’re fascinated with and feel closest to on an emotional level, otherwise it shows in the writing. There’s a strange distance and a kind of abstract looking at a world that isn’t their own—emotionally, not necessarily literally.

On Facebook you mentioned the person inside the country and the country inside the person.

I’m not sure what I meant at that time, but I’m constantly obsessed by the way a country shapes a person, the way a person might be changed, reacting either with or against those influences and being changed by that process. Many of us think about it more than others, about the country inside and outside the person. That’s true of people who’ve lived as expats overseas, but it’s also true of people inside their own country. It’s the relationship we have with the nation around us, which some maybe care about more than others. Whether or not you think about it consciously, you end up writing about it.

So where did that concept appear in Drifting House?

It shows up in all the stories. I have a really hard time trying to write about characters without including the world around them as it is reflected in their values. We also reflect the values of our society when we turn away from them. An example might be “A Small Sorrow” or “The Goose Father,” where people have lived in a certain period of time and are shaped by the circumstances dictated by their society and their family circumstances. But then there comes an inner desire, a resistance to the values that have been embraced, consciously or not. I see that in my novel as well. The only way I know to write about characters is to constantly think about how they’re both reacting to or being influenced by their environment, which is their society.

In Drifting House, which story has a particularly strong connection with the characters or the place?

All of them, really. Until I feel like the characters are completely alive to me, that story does not get published. I won’t let it go unless the character feels like someone I know. In “A Temporary Marriage,” Mrs. Shin’s protective nature, her pride, her reticence is something I felt very strongly, I both admired and felt great sympathy for. Then of course “Drifting House,” the children who try to escape North Korea. I have a lot of friends in the North Korean community and was very active in it. I got into this idea of sacrifices, the unnamed sacrifices North Koreans don’t talk about. I feel great sadness and connection and admiration for all they’ve gone through and survived—and somehow emerged intact. That story was my way of recreating what a couple of kids might have had to go through in order to make it to safety.

It seemed so real to me because I had read Sandra Fahy’s research on North Korean famine refugees.

Of course the killing that does happen is also an act of mercy that requires incredible compromise. Because it’s an act of love, for the character not leave his sister there miserable and cold and dying slowly instead of what actually happens in the story. Just how does one live with having done this terrible thing in order to put someone out of pain? That’s like many decisions we’re faced with all the time. It’s such a heartbreaking decision to make for whoever has that responsibility and one you have to live with it the rest of your life. It’s just a terrible thing.

How do you think your perspective on Korea would have been different if you had never left the country?

It’s hard to say because I’m such a different person. Certainly I doubt I’d have the grace of the inside vs. outside perspective. But then a fiction writer like Kim Young Ha, who spent all his youth in Korea and has traveled so much and lived overseas for good chunks of time, he also sees Korea differently. So it seems to be a gradual transformation or awareness you develop over time. But I’m not sure in what exact ways I would have been different.

Well, one of the things that occurred to me was the undertone of criticism of the US, which seems like criticism an American would be particularly likely to make. For example, why didn’t we take better care of the Korean veterans of the Vietnam War? Or what kind of environment has been created around the US Army posts?

That’s true. Because I’m away from America in some ways I can say I see America better now with the distance.

A Korean who’d never left Korea might have been more critical of Japan.

Right. Although younger writers seem to care less about that. The concern in my book was the post-Korean War period. It didn’t stretch to earlier Korean history.

Your book should be particularly interesting for students of culture because you have so many different aspects of Korean society here—differences in social class, class conflicts within the family and differences in religion, like Christianity and shamanism.

The shaman story was very much inspired by my partner’s childhood. He grew up in a very religious family, and a shaman moved into their basement space. The story isn’t literally biography but it was definitely inspired by his story, which was quite crushing and sad. The concerns were very different from mine, but his story set off mine.

Your stories depend on the kind of writer you are. I’m so interested in the larger world, in class, in the way our place in the world pressures us and shapes us. In the different struggles of people from different classes and the way they might work together and also rub against each other as well. It shows up in the book.

You’ve also got a bunch of different occupations—pastor, artist, drying cleaner, private investigator, salaryman, seamstress and even mention of a democracy poet. Your settings are mostly urban, but also include pictures of the DMZ countryside and the areas around US Army posts, North Korea, the US. You have various political situations and characters who are very unlike each other. It made me wonder if you were consciously creating a well-rounded picture of Korea.

Krys signing books at the Philippine International Book Festival

No, I had nothing like that in mind. I would just write one story at a time, in a created world that felt real to me. The story had to be somehow true, and I would know that truth when I saw it, when it felt true. And when it moved me. The last line in “The Goose Father” broke my heart. I thought if I could be moved, if I could feel wonder, if I could laugh or be devastated by my own story, then maybe there was a chance that readers would feel that as well. It ended up being a collection that covered so much time and so much of Korea. Again, a book is a reflection of who you are as a person, and my interests are all over the place. My good friends, for example, tend to be of all different nationalities, classes, ages and occupations. My interests are so scattered that sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever have a particular focus. Yet my particular focus with the book is the human race. It just naturally reflected the way I am, the way I look and move around the world—by default. When editors said it covered X-number of decades, I thought oh, my goodness it does. My agent pointed out things to me that I hadn’t noticed.  I was too close to see those things.

My favorite was “The Salaryman.” I was in Seoul in 1997, so I knew the truth of it in terms of what appeared every day on the news and what other people said. So I thought probably this particular story arose from a situation rather than from a character.

It was the situation, but it actually started with a character. I was reacting to my boyfriend’s situation at the time I wrote the story. He had been a really vibrant, interesting person involved in the arts and painting and who then disappeared as he got a job with Hyundae. He wasn’t a human being anymore. He was too tired to do anything except sleep. I wrote part of the story out of anger. What came to me first was in the second-person point-of-view [addressed to “you”]. It felt right because there were so many people in the same situation. So it became a story about the people rather than one person.

How did you come to be working with North Korean refugees?

One of my good friends was a very central North Korean activist who’s been called the Joan of Arc of the North Korean human rights movement. Because of her I met other activists, got involved myself, met North Koreans and became friends with them. Once you become friends with the community, you care, otherwise you’re not really a human being. It hadn’t been company I was seeking. I knew so little of what was going on that it was in the abstract. But once you become friends with people who’ve lost their entire families or have lived in pigsties in China because they’re trying to escape, people who have been beaten because when they’re in hiding they have no rights. When you know the people and you’ve seen it with your own eyes, it’s intensely personal. I can’t talk about it without actually getting angry or upset because so many people have suffered.

Have you experienced a kind of strange reaction among South Koreans to your being involved with the North Korean movement?

My friends are not like that. I’ve had a lot of interviews with Korean newspapers and media in the last few months after I joined the Yonsei Underwood International College Faculty as a creative writing professor. Whenever I could I brought up North Korea, they didn’t react in a negative way or seem uncomfortable. Not so far. My relatives and a few other people, however, get very paranoid and afraid, and they ask me not to be involved. They don’t like it. They’re very uncomfortable when I bring it up. It’s because of their Korean education in the past. People the age of my aunts and uncles don’t feel comfortable even hearing about North Korea. They just get very wary.

These days there have been some North Korean spies who’ve come into South Korea posing as refugees, and that’s created problems as well. Many people think North Koreans might be real defectors or they might be spies. The vast majority of North Koreans are not spies at all. They’re just trying to get along and build a life here. So it’s really unfortunate, but I understand the wariness, and I try to respect it because it makes my relatives so uncomfortable. It’s not good news to them to be involved with anything having to do with North Korea. I think that attitude is pretty typical attitude for people of their generation. With younger people, college kids, for example, the problem is their indifference.

A lot of your plots seem to turn on failure and family dynamics and violence. You’ve mentioned that you’re obsessed with these. Do you want to comment on that or talk about it in relationship to any of the stories?

I think I’m preoccupied with those for very personal reasons. Your stories leak or betray you all the time. Things keep coming back for a reason. The violence in “Drifting House” is an act of mercy. In “The Salaryman” it’s very much about survival. At a certain point in a diminished life, even the smallest things can feel precious. You want to fight for that little bit of space, just to declare it yours. Family is an eternal subject. I can’t think of a writer since the beginning of time who doesn’t write about family. It’s probably one of the fundamental bases for literature.

In writing fiction we explore the intersection between life and the imagination. Kerrie Hudson, a Scottish fiction writer who just came to talk to my class, says 88% of her fiction is actually autobiography and 12% is fiction. I’m more the reverse, where 12% is autobiography and 88% is fiction, but that’s just in terms of the facts. The actual themes and ideas and obsessions are all autobiographical. So the combination is always a little bit ambiguous.

You the writer cannot get away from yourself, otherwise you’re just creating unnecessary distance. I mean, the book comes from one person’s brain, so there inevitably has to be some of you on the page. Otherwise it just doesn’t even make sense, actually.

I also went to Squaw Community of Writers, but I didn’t have the experience that you did, with the leader of your group mentioning you to an agent.

Things happened so magically for me. A famous, powerful agent took my half-finished book and loved it. She was really happy too.  She said it was the first time she had been able to discover someone at Squaw. She’d been wanting to, obviously. Agents come to those things for a reason. She was happy to have done something for that community as well. I felt really lucky, and it was a lot easier than it could have been going through the whole agent search. But I have friends who’ve done that in the traditional way who have also found someone they were really happy with.

Related links:

http://therumpus.net/2012/09/the-rumpus-interview-with-krys-lee/

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/culture/2013/02/142_130568.html

http://kryslee.com/book.shtml

http://thethoughtfox.co.uk/krys-lee-outside-insider/

http://www.npr.org/2012/02/20/146817068/in-drifting-house-home-is-where-the-hurt-is

http://www.npr.org/2012/01/21/145576383/risking-the-danger-of-defection-in-north-korea

http://caroldussere.com/2011/12/21/listening-to-famine-in-north-korea/